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Merkel and Hollande plan 'historic' joint speech

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Merkel and Hollande plan 'historic' joint speech
Left: President Francois Mitterrand (l) and Chancellor Helmut Kohl hold hands at the First World War battlefield of Verdun in 1984. Right: Chancellor Angela Merkel (l) and President Francois Hollande
14:31 CEST+02:00
German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande will jointly address the European Parliament in Strasbourg on October 7, the first such event by leaders of the two countries since 1989, a statement said.

 "This is a historic visit for historically difficult times. The EU is facing immense challenges and requires strong commitment by its leaders," EU Parliament chief Martin Schulz said in a statement announcing the visit.

"It is an important signal that such commitment will be made in front of Europe's democratically elected representatives," added Schulz, who invited the two leaders to make the joint address.

Merkel and Hollande, the leaders of the European Union's two biggest economies, have played a driving role in a series of challenges that have gripped the 28-nation bloc, ranging from the migrant crisis to the Greek debt saga and the conflict in Ukraine.

West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl and then-French President Francois Mitterand made a previous joint address to the European Parliament 26 years ago, the European Parliament said.

Gestures of friendship between Kohl and Mitterrand became the symbols of heartfelt commitment on both the French and German sides to continued peace within the framework of the European Union.

By binding Germany and France together in the EU under the Maastricht Treaty, Kohl – sworn into the Hitler Youth in the final days of the Second World War - and Mitterrand – once a prisoner-of-war in a German camp - overcame the fears of some, including the UK's Margaret Thatcher, that a reunited Germany would become too dominant.

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